is renowned worldwide for his accomplishments and contributions to bluegrass music: the hot-picking force in several trend-setting bands including Hot Rize, innovative teacher and author, songwriter, and long-term President of the International Bluegrass Music Association.
Pete’s national music career started in 1971 with the first records by northeast instrumental wizards Country Cooking. Founding Hot Rize in 1978 led to an enduring stint as a performing artist, appearing throughout the U.S. and three continents, on national television and radio. Pete’s instructional books, CDs and videos include best-sellers in their respective fields: Bluegrass Banjo, Bluegrass Songbook, How to Make a Band Work, and many others. A pioneer in bluegrass music instruction, since 1980 his banjo camps, bluegrass jam camps, instruction books, videos and his DrBanjo,com website have inspired players nationwide and overseas.
Pete took up banjo as a teenager in his native New York City, closely studying Earl Scruggs records. While completing B.A. and Ph.D. sociology degrees at Columbia University, he played in local bands and hosted the New York metropolitan area’s only bluegrass radio show in the 1960s. In the early 70s while a sociologist by day at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, he formed Country Cooking whose innovative recordings helped usher in a new wave of contemporary bluegrass.
In 1976 Pete moved to Colorado where he recorded his first solo album, Dr. Banjo Steps Out and in 1978 started Hot Rize. The enduring foursome of Wernick with Tim O’Brien, Charles Sawtelle, and Nick Forster became a major attraction and creative force in bluegrass, famous for their dynamic stage shows and finely-crafted recordings. The group scored repeated #1 bluegrass radio hits, including the Wernick-penned “Just Like You”, and received IBMA’s first Entertainer of the Year award in 1990, as well as a Grammy nomination. The band’s daffy alter-egos Red Knuckles and the Trailblazers gained a following of their own, with Pete as Waldo Otto, steel guitar player and donut impresario (“You Bite It, You Bought It”).